NSA leaker Edward Snowden's mammoth whistleblowing trove is still being worked through, two years after it was first leaked. Now, Al Jazeera and The Guardian are offering another blockbuster cache—"The Spy Cables."
The package, which Al Jazeera describes as a "digital leak," seems to have more in common with Wikileaks than Snowden's NSA files, containing a multitude of top secret memos between global spy agencies:
Spanning a period from 2006 until December 2014, they include detailed briefings and internal analyses written by operatives of South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). They also reveal the South Africans' secret correspondence with the US intelligence agency, the CIA, Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad, Russia's FSB and Iran's operatives, as well as dozens of other services from Asia to the Middle East and Africa.
The cables don't appear to detail how spy agencies do their spying—the sort of material Snowden provided—but rather the actual substance of foreign surveillance observations. And so far, the revelations are fascinating:
- The first story yielded so far claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lied to the world regarding Iran's nuclear capabilities:
Less than a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its "plans to build a nuclear weapon", Israel's intelligence service believed that Iran was "not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons".
- Other memos show Israel obtaining pilfered weapon technology with the help of South Africa's government:
A Mossad secret service document leaked to Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit reveals that in 2010 Israel obtained stolen South African anti-tank missile technology.
South African intelligence covered it up. Years later, when two men charged with stealing the plans were put on trial in South Africa, prosecutors failed to release the full information of Israel's involvement.
- A third leaked dispatch details an effort by MI6 to recruit a North Korean defector as he passed through South Africa:
"We request your support to assist our officer", the British cable stated, explaning that the MI6 operative would intercept the North Korean while in transit between flights "and encourage him to accept a long-term relationship with SIS".
The request of the South African service was that it "provide covert surveillance to identify [X] on his arrival" and "securely house him whilst our officer makes contact," MI6 wrote.
It's as of yet unclear how Al Jazeera sourced the South African briefings but eight years of top secret material from the world's most powerful and far-reaching intelligence agencies seems like at least as big a revelation as that of Snowden and Chelsea Manning.